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BoE approves contract for Norwalk administrators

Personnel Committee Chairman Mike Barbis
Norwalk Board of Education Personnel Committee Chairman Mike Barbis was lauded at Tuesday’s BoE meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – A new contract for Norwalk Public Schools administrators and a bonus structure for the superintendent were approved at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Also, a protest about process achieved a positive result for BoE member Shirley Mosby.

The roundup:

NASA contract

A new contract with the Norwalk Association of School Administrators (NASA) will cost the city an additional $390,000 over its three years but save the city in the long run, Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons and Negotiations and Personnel Committee Chairman Mike Barbis said.

“The net net is we will be paying employees more but the insurance is going to cost us less so the total increase over three years of this new contract is just under $390,000,” Barbis said. “So it is I think a fair settlement to both parties and the Board of Education did get a lot of … changes that we had sought and there are some good positive long-term benefits from some of the changes that were made in this contract.”

“There is a lot of very good administrative changes that increase the flexibility of the superintendent in terms of filling positions, moving positions, the kind of flexibility that you need to have a system and administration more responsive and not sort of hide-bound to previous practices,” Lyons said.

The contract was approved unanimously.

Lyons said Barbis put in an “enormous amount of time” on the negotiation. Barbis said negotiations started in August and were scheduled to go to arbitration but Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera stepped in.

“At end of day when we hit this impasse it was our superintendent who was able to have some very productive discussions with the head of the NASA union and was able to orchestrate the settlement,” Barbis said.

The NASA employees account for about $8.5 million of the BoE budget, Barbis said. They will go into a Health Savings Account (HSA) insurance plan as of Jan. 1, although the contract does not take effect until July 1, he said.  “It’s a win-win for both sides,” he said.

Certain severance benefits packages will be grandfathered in for existing employees but unavailable to new hires, he said. The gross wage increase is 2.5 percent for every year of the contract, he said. Posting periods for vacancies is being reduced to 15 days, he said.

“I think in terms of keeping costs down for the taxpayers this is a very good result,” Lyons said.

Barbis shared some of the limelight with an absent board member when he was receiving thank-yous for his effort.

“Migdalia Rivas was there with me on the front lines,” he said.

Rivera bonus structure

“We are trying to create alignment between how we hold ourselves accountable for performance and what performance looks like,” Rivera said, in explaining the structure he had worked out for a potential bonus.

Although the board negotiated a bonus of up to 20 percent of Rivera’s salary when he was hired, the new structure will give him up to 6 percent if he meets some tough goals.

Rivera said there are quantitative measures to evaluate success with three goals:

  1. Monitor performance of children on track for reading in Grade 3
  2. How well the achievement gap has closed
  3. At middle school, looking at performance of grade 8 to grade 9, to drive the importance of ninth grade

If Rivera meets 100 percent on the measures he will get a 6 percent bonus.

“We are trying to push for improved achievement at all levels of the school system,” Lyons said. “… It’s a high bar, but he’s willing to take a shot at it.”

No vote on proposed policy changes, at Mosby’s request

The board was scheduled to vote on four policy revisions, but Mosby said she had a problem with the process.

“Any revision of policies you are supposed to come to the board and give that report. This should never have been placed on the agenda as an action item,” Mosby said.

The approval of the policies at a Policy Committee meeting and their ensuing presentation to the full board aced the public out of commenting, she said. She had called the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and been told that this was not the correct way of doing things, she said.

Policy Committee Chairwoman Heidi Keyes said the committee meeting had been noticed and the public was welcome. Committee member Artie Kassimis said the policies had been discussed for two hours, and that usually no one from the public attends the meetings.

Mosby said the agenda had been posted 24 hours before the meeting, which she said was not enough time for people to find out about the policy revisions and make time to give input.

Revisions to the policy for graduation requirements and the policy for school attendance areas were tabled to the next board meeting on a unanimous vote. Revisions to the policy governing transfers of funds between categories and the policy on participation by the public, citizens assistance to school personnel and volunteers in Norwalk schools were sent back to the committee for tweaking, also a unanimous vote.

Deputy Superintendent Tony Daddona said the change in graduation requirements was a technical necessity.

The current policy requires students to get a “proficient” score on a state test that is no longer being given, he said. Until the state figures out what it is doing, the proposed policy revision calls for successfully completing benchmarks to graduate.

Comments

7 responses to “BoE approves contract for Norwalk administrators”

  1. John Hamlin

    Sounds like the board members did a great job despite having their hands tied by the state with respect to collective bargaining.

  2. One and Done

    390,000 on top of $8.5 million is a 4.5% increase.

    Outrageous.

    Wait until the Obamacare mandates kick in. These numbers are going to skyrocket.

    I know, I know. Shut up. It’s all for the kids. Right?

  3. Mike Barbis

    The $390,000 is over three years — the life of the contract. This net increase is more like 1.5% per year. The only aspect of Obamacare that has not yet kicked in is the Cadillac tax … all employers will have to deal with that. The legislation only states that the employer pays — there is no discussion as to whether employers can pass on the cost of the tax to the employees. Stay tuned.

  4. Taxpayer Fatigue

    Berman, are you happy with this? Where are the cuts you are seeking?

  5. One and Done

    @Mike. Thanks for the clarification. Looks like a good deal for everyone.

  6. One, over the next 3 years we’ll spend about $500 million on our schools. This $390,000 is 0.00078 of that amount. In exchange for that tiny increase, we got major givebacks from the union on work rules that will significantly increase the ability of the superintendent to run the school system and make personnel decisions on the basis of qualifications rather than just seniority.

    We included in the contract the right to reopen negotiations regarding insurance coverage when the Obama “Cadillac tax” kicks in. So we are not stuck with those increases; we will have the opportunity to negotiate responsibility for the costs.

  7. Mike Mushak

    As I have said before, great job Mike and Mike, from Mike.

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